Scouting can be Magic


To those of us who are involved or have a history of involvement, Scouting can be enchanting.

Sometimes, the parallel with other types of magical activities can be striking….

Theirishscouter has been reacquainted with Harry Potter recently as the introduction to the joys of the Hogwarts Express, Professor Dumbledore et al has been effected to slightly bemused, albeit courteously attentive (most of the time), eight week old offspring.

In the midst of explaining the finer points of Diagon Alley and the vaults at Gringotts Bank to gurgling junior, the similarities between the fictional wizarding world of JK Rowling and the somewhat more real world of Scouting is once again starkly apparent.

Scouting, for those of us who are involved, is a sort of strange double life that we lead alongside our ‘normal’ existence, in much the same way as wizards and witches grapple with normality whenever they come into contact with the ‘muggle’ (non-magical) world.


We wear strange clothes. Yes, the uniform in current format is rather silly to some and regarded as haute couture by others, but we all wear a version of it. It makes us stand out in public. To get a sense of this, try wearing even a neckerchief on a tram or bus – try doing so in a café. You do get the occasional look – sometimes an admiring one, sometimes it is just a strange one.

The neckerchief, a piece of coloured material around our neck that might as well be a cloak, is distinctive and unique to our kind. Maybe ‘wand’ is a better comparison – all too often, a bunch of teens on a bus, in a cinema or on a forest trail draw negative vibes from the adult population in general. Upon sight of a neckerchief however, most skeptical looks melt into smiles – Scouting has a good reputation and the neckerchief is a very recognizable sign of it…


We do strange things. As a football enthusiast friend of theirishscouter once retorted to a comment on the futility of a bunch of scantily clad men chasing a piece of inflated pig skin around a field “sure ‘you lot’ climb all the way up a mountain, just to climb down the other side”. A point well made and the use of the term ‘you lot’ has echoes of Uncle Vernon.

We lie out in wet fields under a thin layer of material and light a fire to cook on, when there is a perfectly good bed (and cooker) at home. We toil for months, years sometimes to gain proficiency in a subject that culminates in receipt of a piece of cloth to sew on to our uniform. The irish scouter once explained what was involved in earning the woodbadge, to a mildly bemused member of the Order of Malta. After the lengthy explanation, said companion summarized “and after all that, you get a string with a couple of pieces of wood on the end of it?” (worth it, in the irish scouters view of course…..)


We go to strange places. We travel by train, by boat, by coach, to remote locations where young people and adults alike have wonderful experiences and form firm friendships, and lifelong memories. The train leaves from platform 1 or 2, not 9 and a half, the coach is usually diesel powered, not drawn by a thestral, the boats don’t row themselves, but you get the idea….


We have our own retail network. Yes, the Outdoor Adventure Store is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts of all types, but how many of these go ‘upstairs’ to the ‘Scout Shop’ (can non-scouting folk even see the staircase?). Was it merely a coincidence during the days of the old CBSI ‘Scout Shop’ on Fownes Street in Temple Bar and the old SAI Supply Service on Leeson Street, that nobody outside Scouting circles ever seemed to know of or see these emporiums? Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley eat your heart out…..


Is the Phoenix sort of like Scouting’s equivalent of Quidditch?

Is the ‘Order of Cuchullain’ a bit like the ‘Order of the Phoenix’?

Are the four houses of Hogwarts equivalents of four different schools of thought on how Scouting should be run in Ireland? Best to have less scouts but perfect and traditional in every way (in other words, no ‘mudbloods’) – all very Slytherin….

Everyone is welcome, challenge convention, push for change – sounds a bit like Gryffindor….

Winning is everything – Competitions are king – It’s quite Hufflepuff…

Scouting has its fair share of ‘Ravenclaw’ types too (big on academia, process, documentation, etc…)

Castle Saunderson could be Hogwarts, but so could Mount Mellary (theirishscouter has a firm memory of being ‘up to no good’ late one night as a cub scout in the vast halls and corridors of Mount Mellary – alas without the benefit of a marauders map).

Larch hill could be Hogwarts too, surrounded by mysterious forests. Or Lough Dan on the edge of a deep, shimmering lake. Cut to one of the PL’s conjouring up a Patronus on the far side of Lough Dan, whilst wardens close in with sternly worded memo’s about being ‘out of bounds’.

Scouting also has it’s own hierarchy of personalities whom members tend to come into contact with over the course of the Scouting year…. Who is the Dumbledore equivalent in Scouting – towering integrity, kind and fair. Immensely powerful, but only using it for good. Perhaps more entertainingly, who is the Minister of magic parallel – vain, self important, largely ineffective and reluctant to make courageous decisions….

Contemplation of a village parallel for Lord Voldemort, the dark lord or ‘he who must not be named’ as the books description goes, might best be left to individual readers….

Like wizards, we in scouting squabble incessantly. The various schools of thought in the wizarding world are constantly at odds with each other and in some ways that is a good parallel with Scouting – we bicker amongst ourselves and expend vast amounts of energy that could frequently be channeled into things we in fact all agree on (we usually agree on 98% – we perhaps just have differing views on how to get there).


Scouting people are usually able to spot each other at 100 paces. We have unique methods with which to communicate with each other (a unique handshake, a secret sign, hundreds of emblems and logos and a whole vocabulary of terminology that would quickly highlight any impostor…)

Perhaps the strongest comparison between JK Rowling’s fictional world of Hogwarts and the world of Scouting however, is the endless pleasure and scope for personal growth and learning about themselves and others that Scouting delivers to young people.

Yes, the adults sometimes get carried away and some loose sight of the reason we are all supposed to be involved, but does that reduce the enjoyment of youth members – in most instances no – Scouting works most of the time thanks to the Herculean efforts of heroic adults, some barely out of their teens, others well into their seventies and eighties. Sometimes, scouting also works in spite of adults.

Scouting can be magic and it is probably fair to say it enchants far more of us than it bewitches…

3 thoughts on “Scouting can be Magic”

  1. Very impressed, so well put together. Kilcully campsite making great strides. You could well be in the running for. Chief. You forgot to mention that there is no politics in scouting – then that could be for the next edition.

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